Kingsway and East Greenwich voters pass referendums for school expansion projects
Wednesday, September 28, 2011, 4:00 AM
By Rebecca Forand/Gloucester County Times
The East Greenwich and Kingsway school districts both passed measures to expand their schools at a special referendum election Tuesday night.
The two school districts have both been saddled with exponential population growth as their towns continue to expand and were struggling with where to put students in the coming years, and have both previously gone to voters to approve expansion measures.
The Kingsway Regional School district houses students in grades 7 through 12 from Swedesboro and South Harrison Township, as well as Woolwich and East Greenwich Townships -- two of the fastest-growing in the state. Students in grades 9 through 12 from Logan Township also attend the school.
Kingsway’s $31.1 million referendum — of which $8.4 million will be covered by state grants — will add 41 classrooms to the middle and high schools on the campus, as well as to expand the gymnasiums and cafeterias.
Voters weighed in and passed the measure by a margin of 1,186 to 1,163, or 52.81 percent to 47.19 percent, according to the county’s unofficial results.
John Marroni, a Woolwich resident who came out to cast his vote at Kingsway Tuesday, decided to vote in favor of the project for the sake of his daughter and the school that she will eventually attend.
“She’s only 7, but in high school I don’t want her to have 35 kids in a class,” he said.
In December the same question failed to pass with voters, but residents this time around came out to approve the measure.
Woolwich resident Nancy Jenkins-Gauntt, who has a son in eleventh grade at Kingsway High School, decided to come out and show her support because she can see how crowded the school already is.
“I care about our children. Sometimes we have to suck it up and put away our big boy toys and care for the children,” she said.
The administration at Kingsway is looking forward to putting all of the campaigning behind them and moving forward with the education of their students.
“We’re certainly humbled by the support and I’m excited for the students that are on their way to Kingsway because they need adequate space,” said Superintendent Jim Lavender.
The East Greenwich school district, which is home to kindergarteners through sixth graders for the township, had twice put a referendum out to voters in the past year. The $25.4 million project, of which $7 million would be covered by state grants, was voted down in both September 2010 and January of this year.
For this election, the school’s officials decided to break it into two questions, one containing only new classrooms and the second containing additional public space and administration offices, as well as canopies on both schools.
The first question passed Tuesday by a margin of 894 to 857, or 50.54 percent to 49.46 percent. The second question was defeated by a margin of 861 to 908, or 48.67 percent to 51.33 percent.
“It’s a project for our future,” said East Greenwich resident Dennis Reilly. “We want there to be enough room in the school.”
Although the district would have liked to see both questions pass, its administration is pleased that the more important section was approved.
“We’re really happy. We can enlarge the schools and keep the classrooms the size they need to be,” said Board of Education President Adele Gallagher. We don’t have to get trailors and we don’t have to go to half-day kindergarten. We can keep out education level and what East Greenwich residents demand of us. Our children thank you.”
East Greenwich’s referendum’s first question will have an annual tax impact of $200 per year on the average assessed home of $176,500 in the township.
The Kingsway referendum will add an additional $157.01 to that. The Kingsway referendum will affect South Harrison homeowners, with a home assessed at the township’s average of $352,887 by increasing taxes $175.49 per year. In Woolwich, the annual tax impact on the average assessed home of $181,402 will be $154.26.
In Swedesboro, which recently went through a property reevaluation, the annual tax impact would have been $112.81 on the average assessed home of $96,105 last year. The current impact was not available by press time.